A Social Economy Perspective and Experience

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Klara Drèze
Author: Klara Drèze

In today’s world, Social Economy has become an essential tool to promote an inclusive and global economy, putting people first, whether the at local, national, or European level. It also contributes, among other things, to the strengthening of social cohesion and inclusion, democratic values, sustainable development, and tends towards a fairer and solidarity-based economy.

However, often, social economy enterprises and entities are difficult to find. Not because of their location, but rather because of a general lack of public visibility and awareness. Indeed, the social economy, although becoming increasingly popular remains in the background compared to traditional businesses. The reason for this can result from a lack of resources from the enterprises, hindering the advertisement and communication of their different projects.

Social Economy Europe (SEE) has at its core the aim of ensuring that social economy issues are politically visible to legislators and considered across the European landscape. Nevertheless, SEE can also serve as a lever to increase social economy enterprises’ visibility and provide the impetus for continuing their development and dissemination. In turn, the spread of the social economy in Europe can contribute to a gain in funding directly beneficial for the entire society.

Promoting all social economy enterprises and entities is not an easy task notably due to their continuous growing number. The idea is therefore to think big while starting small. Building a solid foundation followed by an increase in confidence can further disseminate and encourage replication. For instance, EconomieSociale.be developed an online social economy enterprises directory with categorised and searchable listings of enterprises operating all across Belgium (https://annuaire.economiesociale.be/). You can now find the social economy enterprises located near you. On this platform, there is a wide panel of sectors you can look for ranging from clothing, food, aesthetics, furniture, electricity, housing, and the list goes on. This encourages people to consume products and services from the social economy subsequently advancing the various positive impacts it brings to society. Moreover, by making social economy enterprises more accessible, this initiative contributes to their visibility increase and promotion.

The use of this platform allows one to enjoy a full social economy experience. Let’s for instance, take one full social day out in Brussels. Starting with a morning coffee and a croissant coming from la Boulangerie des Tanneurs where all the products used are from Walloon agriculture you are then ready for a cultural activity. The ASBL Parcours de la Fonderie allows you to discover Brussels along with its industrial past and understand how the whole region ultimately developed. It is then time for some clothing shopping at Les Petits Rien or at Oxfam Solidarité where clothes are given a second life. At midday, after a freshly brewed beer at the Mazette cooperative which will soon be open, you can have lunch at L’Eau Chaude, a vegetarian canteen offering home cooking, prepared with fresh organic products. The afternoon programme is rather dedicated to relaxing activities. You can stop by the Alia Wellness Centre where you can get massages, beauty treatment or try the hammam and sauna. This cooperative aims to promote overall physical, psychological, and social well-being, as social inclusion, and supports the reintegration of jobseekers who are far from the labour market. In between two body care, take the time to read the online Magma Magazine written by youth from 15 to 30 years covering topics such as interculturality and social mixing. Finally, after a dinner at Recyclart, enjoying a 100% vegan meal, you can end your day with a film at the Nova Cinema whose programming is dedicated to films and videos of independent productions.

Having an entire social economy experience is possible! Although the directory developed by EconomieSociale.be is now limited to Belgium, social economy enterprises have no geographical boundaries. A near-future project to be developed would therefore be the creation of a new online platform gathering social enterprises across Europe to ease their access, overall recognition, and visibility. The social economy has a lot to offer to our society and the common good, so let’s start to enjoy it fully!

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